“Show me the money!” This is one of Tom Cruise’s most memorable quotes from the 1996 movie ‘Jerry Maguire’.
And I could not help but replay this line in my head after a local jobseeker who attended last week’s Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) Career Fair 2019 responded to the following question: What’s the minimum salary you would be willing to accept?
“At least 850 Brunei dollars (US$630)!” the first-time jobseeker told Neue.
The 25-year-old Bruneian, who requested for his name to be withheld for fear it would affect his job prospects, said: “I know that finding a job that’ll pay at least 850 Brunei dollars (BND) is going to be tough for me. I do not have a degree, let alone a Higher National Diploma (HND).”
He was just one of many jobseekers who brought along their curriculum vitae (CVs) to the university’s chancellor hall in hopes of securing a job with fair wages.
Some people may scoff at the first-time jobseeker’s hopes of securing a minimum salary of 850 BND.
But we here in Neue believe that’s a reasonable ask. (Wouldn’t YOU agree?)
I could not help but ask the following question: “What do you think should be the bare minimum pay in Brunei for (1) someone who is still living with their parents versus (2) someone who is living on their own?”
We posed this question to some of Neue’s friends.
Interestingly, the answers varied widely.
600 to 1,500 BND
A local in his late 20s who’s currently working in the private sector, meanwhile, said the bare minimum should be $600 (living with parents) and $1,500 (living on their own), assuming that the person needs to pay for his/her car, rent, bills, insurance and putting aside money for savings.
“Many people forget that for locals and permanent residents of Brunei, they are required to contribute to the Employees Trust Fund (TAP) and Supplemental Contributory Pension (SCP), which are both government-initiated pensions schemes,” he said, noting that their monthly contributions are set at a minimum of 5% of their basic salary for TAP and 3.5% of their basic salary for SCP.
“This isn’t the case for foreigners who are working in Brunei,” he added.
1,000 BND (regardless if living with parents or not)
“I don’t see living with parents as being less of a financial burden,” said Bruneian Eats, a long-time food contributor to Neue’s website.
According to her, the minimum pay for both those who are living with their parents or not, should be at least 1,000 BND.
“I know a lot of friends who still live with their parents. And once they start working, their parents would often rely on them to pay the bills or contribute to amenities,” she said. “Similarly, people who move out have their own bills to worry such as rent.”
1,500 to 2,400 BND
A family man in his 50s from the media industry told Neue: “Based on the current cost of living in Brunei, I would say that the bare minimum should be 1,500 BND (living with parents) and 2,400 BND (living on their own) respectively.”
But what about those earning less than 500 BND?
When asked what his thoughts were about locals who are currently earning 250-300 BND for blue-collar jobs, he said: “I would imagine life for them would be tough. I feel very sorry for them.”
“Try comparing that 250-300 BND wage to what foreign domestic workers would earn in Brunei,” he said, noting that an Indonesian maid could earn a monthly wage of 400 BND, whereas a Filipino maid could pull in a figure of 450 BND.
“On top of that salary, the foreign domestic workers enjoy free food, shelter and transportation. Some families would even take them for an overseas vacation,” he added.
Better for locals to be maids instead?
He went on to say (sarcastically) that it seemed as though “it would be better for some locals who may be having difficulty finding work to become domestic workers for families in Brunei.” (What do YOU think about his statement? Is there any truth to what he’s saying?)
Offer more full-time positions
Nazy Sam, the Founder and CEO of @kava.bn, was among those who set up a booth at last week’s UBD Career Fair.
She hopes to see more companies offer full-time positions to jobseekers, and not just internships.
“There are some Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) still offering internships. I would really like to see more companies hiring locals and in doing so, play their part in contributing to the economy. I think that it’s time for SMEs to start expanding and create jobs for the locals,” she said.
Open to idea of internships
According to Nurul A’qilah Hj Muzani, the Project Officer of Entrepreneurship Village UBD, this year’s UBD Career Fair turned out better than last year’s, with more startups and small growing companies taking part.
“From my interaction with visitors to the recent career fair, most were open to internships, even unpaid ones,” she said. “This shows how our youth appreciate the value of work experience, which is a big and positive mindset shift from what Bruneians would typically consider when applying for a job.”
Currently no minimum wage in Brunei
Brunei’s Labour Department acknowledged that currently the country does not implement any mandatory minimum level of salary.
According to a Xinhua report published in May 2017, the Labour Department noted that the level of wages in Brunei are left to market forces, to be negotiated freely and agreed with between the employers and employees, which is similar to a few other developed economies.
“Current practice ensures that wages are competitive, based on qualifications and takes into account the affordability of companies to employ workers, sustain and grow business operations to employ more of the existing jobseekers in the labour market,” the Labour Department said.
Will we ever see the implementation of a mandatory minimum salary here? Only time will tell.
But until that day comes … let’s just hope that companies out there are willing to give a chance to eager but inexperienced youths to take their first step in acquiring work experience.
Personally speaking, I think the minimum should be 1,500 BND regardless if one is still living with their parents or not. But that’s just my opinion. What’s yours?
Oh! While you’re here, why not check out some of Neue’s past stories – “Is it true? 1 trolley in Brunei = 2 trolleys in Miri” & “Is it possible to survive with only $5 a day in Brunei?”